Monday, November 23, 2009

Osibisa's Chennai Concert - A once-in-a-lifetime treat

I screamed and sang my guts out and my hands are still a bit sore with all that clapping. For everyone who attended the sold out Osibisa concert yesterday at the Music Academy, it was an experience of a lifetime.

For those of us who missed Osibisa way back in the early 80's (If I am right, it was 1984) the concert yesterday was something Chennaities couldn't have asked for more.

My weeks long anticipation, singing their tunes, watching their videos and even getting Chaithu, Suji and her kids listen to the music of Osibisa ended in a brilliant climax last evening.

In two words - Osibisa rocked! It is incredible to believe how they can still create their magic after 40 years. One listen to their latest offering "Osee Yee" will also confirm how they can still be going on strong after all these years. The band's founder, lead singer and multi-instrumentalist (flute, saxophone, african drums) Teddy Osei now in his early 70's and barely able to walk is an inspiration on stage.

My only gripe was the audience. Unlike the concert going crowds of Bangalore the crowd seemed too sober for the music of a band such as Osibisa but that would change very soon. When they started with the usual opener "The Dawn" I thought I was the only guy clapping to that exotic irresistible bass-drum beat. "C'mon Chennai", I complained inside. Unlike a bunch of headbangers the cosmopolitan crowd looked as though they had come to watch a typical classical "Kutchery" performance. But Osibisa's magic would change all that very soon. Crowd pullers, they sure know how to engage the crowd. But even when Teddy Ossei their quintessential leader asked the crowd to dance and sing the audience seemed too lip-tied and unmoved. But in a fully seated audience I wondered if the crowd would ever make a move.

Then comes the ice-breaker, "Ojah Awake", the song that is used heavily in programmes "Kalakka povathu yaaru" on Sun TV and "Rasika Raja" on Surya TV. I think for many in the audience who have been watching these programs it would have come as a pleasant awakening. For "Ojah", Osibisa got the crowd singing. The momentum had already picked up. Osibisa then moved on to perform their other hits, "Music for Gong Gong", "Ai Kobia Yo" and for the latter they got the crowd engaged as well. The best was yet to come. When they announced their next song would be "Ragupathi Raghava" I screamed my lungs out. I was surprised even this song did not prompt the audience to sing till it hit the "Jai Jai Ram", "Sitha Ram" portion.

I had my moments too. During the quieter moments when Teddy was speaking in between the numbers I screamed "Sunshine Day". Teddy responded saying "Yeah Yeah Sunshine". Another member of the audience screamed "Sunshine Day" too and to our delight the band started the song. The crowd got to their feet leaving all inhibitions behind and sang and cheered with the band all the way through. It just felt incredible. To top that, just as the song concluded they started their next big hit "Dance the body music". Back to back the two songs were a treat.

Other hits Osibisa delighted us were "Kilele" where they got the audience singing too, the slow but beautiful ballad, "Welcome home" and another lovely number from their latest album, "Osee Yee". Other good songs I can recall are "Woyaya", "Celebration" and "Right now".

The instrumentalists took time for ample solo's though the solo's were not entirely of the pure rock or of the heavy metal genre. The drummer and rhythm guitarist also took time to display some dancing skills that got the crowd going wild. It was a delight to also watch the percussionists doing their combined solos where the audience cheered and applauded wildly.

Signing off, coming back for the encore with "The Warrior", introducing the band towards the end were all done in perfect style.

For me it was my first visit to the auditorium that Chennai is known for and it was a nice experience. The auditorium is small and the proximity to the artistes on stage is very good. The sound was impressive and I would give it 4.5 stars out of 5 rating for the concert. I would have loved Osibisa perform to a bigger audience like they did when they were here 25 years ago but this is the best a Chennai crowd could ask for.

Suji and the kids loved it. I thought it was a nice induction for Chaithu and his cousins to a live rock concert.

Now to buy the latest album online. The price of the CD's being sold outside the auditorium seemed a bit too dear, unless they had let us get the autographs on the CD by the band members.


kanika said...

i am 14 years old and i went to the concert too!! my father told me about it and my mother forced us to go so we went and three of us had an exotic time!! i never knew about osibisa before but now they have another hard core fan to add to their over flowing list. I too wondered whether the crowd would actually pick momentum and appreciate and give the applause that was very rightly deserved. But i don't think Chennai can be like Bangalore- Bangalore has the essence of music-after Delhi and Bombay i think( i may be wrong-in fact i won't be surprised if i am) but Chennai was wrong not to give them proper appreciation. I think they deserved more.I was screaming my guts out and clapping for all i was worth. I was also waving my mobile in the air. Later i went and got their autographs. To say they were awesome is a BIG understatement. All were amazing but since i actually talked a lot with Nii i think i like him best. I've never talked so much with a superstar! It was definitely the time of my life.

Subash S L said...

Kanika, you were lucky to get their autographs. How did you manage that? If I could have got their autographs on the CD I would have certainly got it. I was looking if I could meet them but there seemed to be no way. Did you meet them at the venue or at some other place?